Actor John Ratzenberger, perhaps best known as the barfly postman Cliff Clavin on TV’s Cheers, now plays an even more engaging role offscreen as an activist. He has spoken out for American manufacturers at congressional hearings, and in 2004, he created, produced, and hosted Made in America, a show for the Travel Channel, in which he visited 200 iconic U.S. companies to celebrate the men and women still making products on American soil. He is also completing an independent film about the current job crisis, Industrial Tsunami. Here, his recommendations for keeping jobs at home.
Buy American. “Everyone who’s out shopping should just go into a store and say, ‘Where’s your made-in-America section?’ If they say they don’t have any, then say, ‘Thanks, I’ll find it somewhere else.’ They’ll get the message. Go to my website, ratzenberger.com, for updates about the shortage of skilled American laborers and more tips on what else you can do.”
Support hands-on training. “We need to reinstate vocational training in skilled manual crafts. Ask about adding shop classes to your local school curriculum. If you’re experienced in a trade, offer an apprenticeship to students to learn your skill. It’s alarming that the average age of industrial workers today is 55, and the younger generation isn’t being equipped to take their place.”
Change perceptions. “A lot of people think that manual labor is demeaning, that if you don’t have a college degree you’re a lesser human being. High school guidance counselors should be telling students that factories today are immaculate, and some people in manufacturing make good money. Within two years, there will be a need for over 500,000 welders in the United States. Look around at all the things that need welding: bridges, water systems, sewer systems, ships, railroads. One of the reasons the Roman Empire collapsed is that roads fell into disrepair and there weren’t enough stonemasons to repair them. The same thing could happen here.”